This park, like the street on which it lies, honors Francis J. Barretto, a 19th century merchant who lived in the area. Many streets in Hunts Point bear the names of the wealthy families who owned large tracts of land there during the 18th and 19th centuries. Coster Street, two blocks away, is named for Barretto’s wife, Julia Coster.
The original inhabitants of the area were the Weckguasgeek Native Americans, corn and tobacco farmers who called their land Quinnahung, or “planting neck.” European settlers displaced the Weckguasgeek in the 17th century. They named the peninsula Hunts Point for Thomas Hunt who settled there in 1670. The newcomers built elaborate estates and farmed the land as well.
Originally part of West Farms in what was then lower Westchester County, Hunts Point became part of New York City in 1874. It underwent significant growth after the IRT subway line to Manhattan was completed in 1908. Urban development put an end to the farms and the mansions, and the area went into a period of decline in the 1950s. Today, community groups are making Hunts Point a desirable place to live once again. The neighborhood is famous for the Hunts Point Terminal Market, the largest produce market in the United States.
Barretto Park was assigned to Parks by the City in 1979, and named by Commissioner Stern in 1997. It recalls the rustic atmosphere that once characterized Hunts Point. A red picket fence rambles from end to end of the grassy parcel and a wooden shed painted in bright colors stands in the center. A wrought iron trellis and a small gazebo contribute to the country flavor. The gazebo stands in a corner under a weeping willow tree (Salix alba), while in the opposite corner scrub pines (Pinus virginiana) and London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia) provide shade for a small play area.